DPP Home Business The True Cost Of Big Prints

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The True Cost Of Big Prints

Does it pay off for you to make large prints yourself or to contract the work out to a high-quality lab?


This Article Features Photo Zoom
HP Designjet Z3200
Digital C Prints Standard: $65.00 for the first print; 2-9: $39.00; 10-24: $25.00; 25-49: $20.00; 50-99: $15.00; 100+: $12.00

Digital C Prints Gallery: $90.00 for the first print; each additional print is $50.00

Digital B&W Fiber Paper: $276.00 for the first print; each additional print is $186.00

Deep Matte Fuji Paper: $135.00 for the first print; each additional print is $85.00

Bottom Line
As tempting as it is to make the solution cut-and-dried, that's just not possible. Owning a large-format printer is a good option if you can afford the buy-in and only if your print volume can justify it. But you need to keep in mind that these printers are intended to be used on a regular basis. If you're only doing a couple of large prints a week, or if the printer will be sitting for weeks at a time between print jobs, the cost of ownership starts to go up. Cleaning cycles and maintenance can use significant amounts of ink, resulting in waste and driving up costs, as well as leading to potential downtime.

There's a considerable upfront investment made in printer, ink and paper. If you compare to the 24-inch Epson Stylus Pro 7890, the cost of entry including the printer and a set of 350ml ink cartridges is about $5,435 (MSRP). Rolls of Epson paper range from about $149 to $189 MSRP (24-inch wide rolls by 40 or 50 feet). The break-even point compared to the West Coast Imaging price (24 x 36-inch prints) is about 41 (assuming 41 unique prints). The break-even point compared to 20x24-inch lab Digital C Prints is around 187 prints when looking at Bay Photo's $29 per print. Looking at the Duggal prices and assuming Deep Matte Fuji Paper prints at $135, your break-even point would be 40 prints (assuming 40 unique prints).

Using the larger Epson Stylus Pro 9890 as an example, the printer and a set of 350ml ink cartridges make the cost of entry $6,435 (MSRP); rolls of Epson paper range again range from about $149 to $189 MSRP (24-inch wide rolls by 40 or 50 feet). The break-even point compared to the West Coast Imaging price (again using 24 x 36-inch print prices) is about 49 (assuming 49 unique prints). The break-even point compared to 20x24-inch lab Digital C Prints is around 222 prints when looking at Bay Photo's $29 per print. Looking at the Duggal prices and assuming Deep Matte Fuji Paper prints at $135, your break-even point would be 48 prints (assuming 48 unique prints).

All of these break-even points are approximate.

For some photographers, a big printer pays for itself within a couple of months. For others, the payback may take over a year or more. It all depends on your volume and, of course, what you can sell.


 

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